We often hear about how religious believers and their ideas and inventions shaped modern history, but less examined is how atheists — with their persistent questioning and challenging of orthodoxy — influenced the world in which we live.
Mitchell Stephens has written a new book exploring precisely that aspect of religion. (Call it the “Old Atheism,” if you will.) His book is Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
In the excerpt below, Stephens looks at unbelief in places where the written word wasn’t a part of society: